"Chrysanthemums", by John Steinbeck
To have an excellent short story, it must contain a vivid setting that the readers can visualize, a realistic characterization that is easy to relate to, and a well developed plot. John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums"definitely meets all these requirements.
"The Chrysanthemums" is set in the Salinas Valley in California. A place where sunshine shines off the river, but in December, it bathes in cold sunshine."The high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot" (326). The wintry weather blew a light wind from the southwest, which the farmers hoped would bring rain. The immediate setting is Henry Allen's ranch across the river. There is little work to be done there, the hay has been cut and the orchards were plowed up awaiting the rain. In the garden, Elisa Allen is cutting down the old chrysanthemum stalks. Steinbeck's description of the Salinas Valley is remarkable. The setting is an important part of the puzzle that completes a short story; it lets the readers visualize the scenery.
Steinbeck creates a realistic characterization in this story with Elisa Allen. She is a strong woman who struggles with equality and feminism. Early in the story, Elisa conceals her figure in her gardening clothes. She wears a man's black hat to cover her eyes, clodhopper shoes to hide her feet, and an apron covering her sunflower dress. In her garden, Elisa cuts down her chrysanthemums stalks with intense energy. This makes her feel masculine and in control. She struggles to exemplify her masculinity in a male dominated society. When her husband Henry comes over and jokes about taking her to the fights, Elisa says she wouldn't like fights. Elisa reacts like a man to situations, but is always re…